Why I wrote – The Ploughman on the Pound Note

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Having read an article in “Galway History and Society” by Dr. Tony Varley, entitled Farmers against Nationalists, The Rise and Fall of Clann na Talmhan in County Galway, I realised that here was a phase in social history that had been totally neglected by historians i.e. Farmer Politics as against Party Politics, especially when agriculture played such an important part in the country’s economy. Later when I decided on a name for my book “The Ploughman on the Pound N0te” the importance of agriculture in the economy then was brought home to me by the very fact that all the symbols then on the currency were connected to farming.

Rates on land was also a great bone of contention back then as farmers were of the opinion that they were paying for services afforded to town dwellers and which were denied to themselves, namely, water, sewerage and electricity. As rates on land, and buildings which were private houses, were abolished in 1984 people under 30 years of age would have little understanding of their role in the farm economy and farmer politics during the greater part of the 20th Century. So, I decided to include in my book a brief description as to how rates came into being and the evolution of the purposes to which the money accruing from the rates was used.

The achievements of The United Irish League have been very much diminished by the fight for political separation from Britain. The United Irish League is usually confused with The Land League which was formed 20 years earlier and disintegrated on the death of Parnell. The United Irish League’s great achievement was the setting up of The Land Conference in 1902 at which its representatives met with the representatives of the landlords, and this in turn led to the Windham Land Act of 1903. This land act with its accompanying Act of 1909 completed a social and economic revolution by ending Iandlordism and creating a peasant proprietorship.

l included the Co-Operative Societies, formed in the early part of the 20th Century, as their failure had a profound effect on the social and economic wellbeing of the rural community in the county as it caused a distrust of any kind of new innovation and stymied any progress or development for at least a generation.

The Galway Farmers Association (1915-1928) may not have achieved a great deal for farmers but at least they it brought a sense of unity amongst them when the County was rife with various political factions and all seeking to involve the farmers in their own political agenda.

The Economic War had a devastating effect on the farming community and farmers felt that they were the troops who manned the trenches and won the day, but derived no thanks or benefit from their sacrifices. It was this perception that led to the formation of Clann na Talmhan (1938-1964). Farmers’ party of 70 years ago – The Irish Times With farm produce prices at an all-time low and the heights to which farm input costs had climbed, rates were of special concern, impoverishment and loss of morale led to a sustained flight from the land. The blame for this crisis that had overwhelmed post-independence Ireland was laid primary at the door of politicians. When they voted themselves salary increases in 1938 Michael Donnellan (leader of Clann na Talmhan) was led to say “the only ploughman the politicians are interested in is the ploughman on the pound note”. Hence the name of the book.

As well as setting forth the fortunes and misfortunes of the various farm organisations in Co. Galway during the 20th Century the book demonstrates how most of the organisations started off as non-political but the lure of power sucked their leaders into the party-political system. In most cases the entry into politics was motivated by good intentions and initially boosted the position of the organisation, but the pressure of party politics and the desire for power often led the leaders to lose sight of the original aims of the organisation, leading to its demise or amalgamation with a more powerful political party.

The only farmers organisation that had the wisdom to stay clear of party politics was The National Farmers Association (N.F.A.), which was formed in 1955, and later to become The lrish Farmers Association (l.F.A.), thus enabling it to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation on January 6th 2005.

During my research it became evident that the greatest problem which beset all the organisations was reconciling the interests of the various strands of farming and again, with a few minor hick-ups, The lrish Farmers Association seem to have been the most successful in this respect.

Left to right: Eugene Duggan, Maureen Duggan, Stephanie O ’Regan and Finbarr O ‘Regan                          at the launch of “The Ploughman on the Pound Note”.

John Dillon, President of The lrish Farmers Association had promised to launch the book and as the Association was about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary I had hoped to have the book launch in St. Michael’s Hall, Craughwell, as it was here that the first meeting in Galway of The National Farmers Association took place on February 13th 1955, but the hall was undergoing renovations and was not available so the launch was performed by John Dillon in Keanes Bar and Restaurant in Athenry on Saturday 26th November 2004.

Feature Photo Left to right: Padraic Maher, Galway Rural Development: michael Silke, Chair Galway IFA: Eugene Duggan, Author: John Dillon, President IFA: Tommy Kelly, Area Manager FBD Insurance at the lauch of “The Ploughman on the Pound Note”

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About this record

Written by Eugene Duggan

Published here 26 Oct 2022 and originally published 2004

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